Driving through the beautiful countryside of Iowa, we came to a small township called Winterset. It is made famous by the Madison County Bridges in the vicinity. We collected a map and brochures from here and drove towards the bridges.
In the 19th century, there were 19 bridges. Today only six remain in good condition. The bridges were covered to protect the wooden timbers that made up the floor of the bridges. It was cheaper to replace the roof and walls whenever necessary. The surrounding area is densely covered with green woods, rolling grasslands and gentle streams. There is abundant wild life in the area.
Madison County was established in 1846 and was named after James Madison the fourth President of America. The bridges were named after the closest resident to each bridge. They became a tourist attraction ever since the movie “The Bridges of Madison County” was filmed.
We first drove to the Cutler –Donahue Bridge where we had a picnic lunch in the park. We then went on to the Rosaman Bridge over a flowing river, where the movie was filmed. It is 107 feet long and was renovated in 1992. The story dates back to 1965 when an Italian-American lady Francesca Johnson had a 4-day illicit love affair with a photographer Richard Kincaid from the National Geographic, who came to shoot a photographic essay of the covered bridges. In 1992 Robert James Waller turned the story into a bestselling novel. The house where Francesca lived was burned down by vandals.
Rosaman Bridge was built in 1883 and is in its original location. It is called the ‘Haunted Bridge’ because in 1892, two sheriffs trapped an escapee from the County jail on this bridge. Legend says the man cried out in a loud voice, rose up straight through the roof and disappeared. That legend has been forgotten. It is the movie that makes this bridge famous.
Madison County Museum and Historical Complex is a place to visit. It was opened in 1970. The Annual Covered Bridges Festival is celebrated in the second week of October, since 1970.
By Eva Bell